This January I spent three days with Professor Elizabeth Corwin, Esq. ’89 at the Pace Law School in White Plains, NY, and I decided I wanted to study law. My name is Anya Lewis-Meeks and I am currently a sophomore, whose interests have been fairly vague so far, pretty much only designated by the fact that I knew I didn’t want to start my life in the working world as soon as I finished college, that I wanted a few years to continue studying and to continue being a student. I decided to apply for the Princeternship at the Pace Law School to decide if law school was something I could see myself doing, and I would advise others who are feeling similarly to do the same. It was genuinely one of the most helpful experiences in terms of deciding the direction I wanted my life and my career to go.
I had arrived the night before by train and settled in very well with Professor Corwin and her adorable children, all of whom were extremely accommodating and kind to me. Professor Corwin herself was so engaging and interesting, she talked to me excitedly about her experiences at Princeton as an undergrad and at Pace where she decided to pursue her degree as a lawyer a few years after she completed her AB degree. We arrived at 9 am that first morning and met up with MicKenzie, the other Princetern on the program. MicKenzie and I were ushered into our first class, Evidence, with Professor Lisa Griffin, whose class was conducted in the Socratic style (lawyer-speak for in-class debate) and who managed to maintain the interest of the fifty-person class. After Evidence we went to Professor Noa Ben-Asher’s Family Law class, and we were thrust into conversation about the right of privacy within the marital bedroom and the right of the state to restrict marriage. Again the material we were learning was so fascinating that I barely noticed that I had spent almost three hours in class.
At lunch, Professor Corwin facilitated a meeting with a couple of her students, Aisha and Mariam, who talked to us for over an hour about the different groups on campus (which were mostly divided by legal interests, such as Environmental and International Law), and about the difficulties the LSAT had provided for them and that they expected to have when studying for the Bar exam. Both students were very engaged in conversation with us, and seemed quite eager to tell us about all of the gossip associated with the School, as well as their own reasons for applying to Pace.
After lunch we attended Professor Ben-Asher’s Gender and Sexuality Class, wherein we learned about different schools of thought about feminism over the years and how different cases were introduced in response to these new arising modalities of feminism.
Completely overwhelmed yet excited, I returned home already mostly sure that law school was going to be part of my plans for the future, but it wasn’t until the second day that I really felt certain about it.
The second day marked one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had in a professional setting. We spent the morning of the 29th at White Plains Family Court, and were able to sit in the back of Judge Kline’s court to hear the workings of a case about the Termination of Parental Rights. The woman whose parental rights were in question was in attendance, and it was supremely difficult to see her facial and physical reactions to the rigorous argument by the lawyer and the witness against her character. The main goal of Family Court is protection of the child, and we were reminded of this constantly by Professor Corwin, but it was interesting and grounding to be reminded of all the stakeholders in a law case. I think the experience helped me realize how easy it is to demonize defendants of cases, but seeing the actual court case helped me realize how important it is to think like a lawyer and subdue your feelings of sympathy or a lack thereof to focus on the best possible outcome.
After the fascinating Family Court experience we attended Constitutional Law, where we talked about Congress’ influence and involvement in issues of violence against women and equal protection in terms of the commerce clause. We talked also about the use of medicinal marijuana and its relation to state versus federal law, and congress’ stake in the matter. Again the Professor managed to maintain even an introductory class’ interest, and MicKenzie and me were, of course, impressed.
After the class we attended a screening of the movie Gandhi and engaged in conversation about the impact Gandhi has had on non-violent protest and Martin Luther King. It was a nice reminder that even in law school activities were not solely dedicated to work, and they even served pizza at the talk, just like at a Princeton event!
The final day we attended two more classes, starting with a supremely interesting Advanced Trial Advocacy class with Professor Lou Fazulu wherein several law students enacted the process of witness questioning in a trial-style environment, all dressed in business clothing and with an air of seriousness around them. Although many students use their law degree for occupations other than prosecuting, or even practicing law at all, the reminder that this is what the theoretical class contributed to was welcome and very much appreciated.
Before our next class of the evening we participated in a study-abroad informational session, where several students commented on their experiences in law firms abroad (especially in India and China), and how rewarding the opportunities had been for them.
After lunch we attended a Contracts law class, where we learned about the difference between return promises and performances, and the interesting cases where acceptance by silence would be pertinent. Even topics based on minutiae that I would not have considered interesting in the past came alive, and I found myself flurrying to take notes about contract law cases even though I wouldn’t need them for years to come.
The final class we experienced was not a class at all, really, but rather a sort of de-briefing session for the students participating in the Environmental Law Externship program. The students, who were all working several hours at different companies certain days of the week, met with this class to discuss the different experiences they were having at their various environmental places of employ, and once again the idea of professional work was brought into context. It’s very easy as an undergraduate to wonder about how what you are learning will be relevant to your life after school, and I think that this is the main difference between the two schools that I found appealing. Instead of vague interests that spiraled into the ether of doing something with my life someday, concrete ideas of the reconciliation of knowledge and application were beginning to form in my head.
The experience for me was extremely rewarding not necessarily because of the information I learned or the people I met (we also had a meeting with the admissions director of Pace, who was very kind but also quite intimidating with all the information about application!), but because of the consolidation of a professional future, for me. I didn’t leave only thinking I wanted to go to law school, but that I wanted to be a lawyer, with all that meant and all the difficulties that would arise along the way. The experience convinced me to change my classes and to change my major, and to seriously orient my plans for the next few years around application to law school, and I am tremendously thankful for that.